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Charting Your Winter Escape: Alternative Routes to Sunny Florida via America’s Byways

For snowbirds, the allure of spending the winter months in sunny Florida is undeniable. With its balmy temperatures, pristine beaches, and a wealth of attractions, it’s no wonder the Sunshine State has become a beloved winter haven for those seeking respite from the cold and snow. However, while the traditional routes to Florida may be well-trodden, savvy snowbirds are increasingly exploring alternate routes to reach their winter retreats.

The America’s Byways collection of scenic routes offers travelers options that may help avoid the notorious traffic snarls that can plague the traditional paths. Alternative routes can also lead travelers through lesser-known regions and hidden gems that might be missed on the interstate highways. Snowbirds can use this opportunity to explore charming small towns, historic sites, and picturesque landscapes along the way.

From the Midwest

If you’re traveling from the Midwest, consider adding one of these scenic drives as an alternate route or side trip.

  1. Country Music Highway (Kentucky)

The Country Music Highway in Kentucky is an enticing side trip for several compelling reasons. First, it offers travelers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich musical heritage of the region. Known as the “Birthplace of Stars,” this highway has been home to numerous country music legends, including Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, and Ricky Skaggs. Travelers can visit hometown museums, landmarks, and venues dedicated to these iconic artists, gaining insight into their lives and careers. The journey along the Country Music Highway becomes a musical pilgrimage, where the melodies and stories of these legends come to life, making it a must-visit destination for country music enthusiasts.

Second, the Country Music Highway winds through the picturesque landscapes of eastern Kentucky, offering a scenic backdrop to the musical journey. The rolling hills, lush forests, and charming small towns along the route create a quintessentially Appalachian atmosphere. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of fall foliage or the tranquil beauty of the countryside, the highway provides a visually captivating experience. Travelers can also explore outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, in the nearby state parks and forests, making it an ideal side trip for nature enthusiasts as well. The Country Music Highway is a harmonious blend of musical history and natural beauty, making it a memorable and enriching journey for all who traverse its winding path.

  1. Crowley’s Ridge (Arkansas)

A drive along the Crowley’s Ridge National Scenic Byway in Arkansas promises an enjoyable side trip. The byway meanders through a unique geological formation known as Crowley’s Ridge, which rises prominently from the flat Mississippi Alluvial Plain. This ridge offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and creates a dynamic backdrop for the journey. Travelers can appreciate the striking contrast between the rolling hills of Crowley’s Ridge and the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta, making the scenic drive captivating and engaging. Along the way, there are numerous overlooks and scenic pull-offs where you can pause to soak in the picturesque landscapes and capture memorable photographs.

Secondly, the Crowley’s Ridge region is rich in history and offers opportunities to explore charming small towns and historical sites. The byway passes through communities that have preserved their heritage and provide a glimpse into the history of the area. The town of Jonesboro boasts museums, historic homes, and cultural attractions that allow travelers to step back in time and learn about the region’s past. Additionally, the byway offers access to Crowley’s Ridge State Park, where visitors can hike along scenic trails, enjoy picnicking, and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the ridge. Overall, a drive along the Crowley’s Ridge National Scenic Byway combines stunning landscapes with cultural exploration, making it a fun and enriching side trip for those seeking a diverse and memorable road trip experience in Arkansas.

  1. Great River Road (Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin)

Embarking on side trips along the Great River Road while driving from the Midwest is a rewarding experience that adds depth and diversity to the journey. The Great River Road, which follows the course of the mighty Mississippi River, spans over 2,000 miles and passes through ten states. Along the way, it offers countless opportunities to explore charming riverfront towns, historic sites, and natural wonders. These side trips allow travelers to delve deeper into the heart of America, uncovering hidden gems that might otherwise be missed.

One of the key rewards of taking side trips along the Great River Road is the chance to discover unique culture and history. From the vibrant jazz scene in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the scenic bluffs and picturesque river towns in Wisconsin, each region has its own distinct charm and character. Travelers can visit Civil War battlefields, explore historic plantations, indulge in regional cuisine, and experience the warm hospitality of the people along the route. Whether it’s attending a Mardi Gras celebration in St. Louis, Missouri, or admiring the architectural beauty of Nauvoo, Illinois, these side trips offer a rich tapestry of experiences that celebrate America’s diverse heritage and traditions.

  1. Talladega Scenic Drive (Alabama)

A drive along the Talladega Scenic Byway in Alabama promises to deliver a fun and rewarding experience as an alternative route or side trip. Firstly, the byway traverses the stunning Talladega National Forest, which covers nearly 400,000 acres of pristine wilderness. Travelers can immerse themselves in the beauty of nature as they wind their way through lush forests, pass by serene lakes, and enjoy breathtaking vistas. The route is particularly popular during the fall when the foliage transforms into a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, creating a picturesque backdrop for the journey. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for opportunities to hike, fish, or simply take in the natural splendor, the Talladega Scenic Byway offers it all.

The byway also leads travelers through charming small towns and communities, providing opportunities to explore Alabama’s rich cultural heritage. From historic districts to local festivals and events, there’s a lot to discover along the way. The byway also connects with the Cheaha State Park, home to Alabama’s highest peak, Mount Cheaha. Visitors can take a detour to explore the park’s hiking trails, visit the observation tower for sweeping views, and learn about the native flora and fauna. Whether you’re looking for scenic beauty, outdoor adventures, or cultural exploration, the Talladega Scenic Byway offers a delightful alternate route that showcases the diverse treasures of Alabama.

I-95 Coastal Excursions

Here are few scenic drives for travelers heading south on I-95 and looking to linger along the coast.

  1. Ashley River Road (South Carolina)

The Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway in South Carolina is a captivating journey through time, offering travelers a unique opportunity to explore the state’s rich history, lush landscapes, and architectural treasures. This scenic byway winds along the Ashley River, which is lined with majestic oak trees draped in Spanish moss and historic plantations that harken back to the antebellum era. As you drive along this picturesque route, you’ll encounter a series of plantations, such as Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, each with its own distinct charm and stories of the past. These sites provide visitors with a window into the grandeur and complexities of the Old South, showcasing beautifully landscaped gardens and fascinating exhibits that tell the tales of those who lived and worked on these plantations.

Beyond the plantations, the Ashley River Road Byway also offers opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The region is teeming with wildlife, and birdwatchers and nature lovers will delight in spotting herons, egrets, and other native species in the area’s wetlands and swamps. The scenic drive also leads to several recreational areas, like the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, where visitors can enjoy hiking trails, picnicking, and learning about the founding of the original Charles Towne colony. Overall, a drive along the Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway is a captivating and educational journey that showcases the beauty of South Carolina’s Lowcountry and its deep ties to American history.

  1. Edisto Island National Scenic Byway (South Carolina)

The Edisto Island National Scenic Byway in South Carolina offers a rewarding and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. As you embark on this scenic journey, you’ll be immersed in the natural beauty and cultural charm of the Lowcountry. The byway winds through pristine salt marshes, ancient oak avenues draped with Spanish moss, and tranquil waterways, providing travelers with a serene and picturesque backdrop for their adventure. This tranquil setting is perfect for those seeking a peaceful road trip experience and a chance to connect with nature.


One of the key rewards of traveling along the Edisto Island Byway is the opportunity to explore the rich history and cultural heritage of the region. Edisto Island is steeped in the Gullah Geechee culture, and you’ll encounter historic plantations, quaint churches, and unique cultural sites along the way. The byway also leads to Edisto Beach State Park, where you can enjoy miles of unspoiled coastline, birdwatching, and water-based activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. Whether you’re interested in history, wildlife, or simply savoring the laid-back atmosphere of the Lowcountry, the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway offers a rewarding experience that showcases the charm and character of this coastal gem in South Carolina.

  1. Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway (Georgia)

A drive along the Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway in Georgia is a truly rewarding experience that offers a deep dive into the history, culture, and natural beauty of the state. This byway traces the course of the Altamaha River, one of the largest and most ecologically significant rivers in Georgia. As you journey along its winding path, you’ll encounter picturesque landscapes, charming small towns, and a wealth of recreational and historical opportunities. The byway’s winding roads and serene river views make it a delightful route for those seeking a slower-paced, scenic drive.

One of the key rewards of exploring the Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich cultural and historical heritage of the region. Along the way, you can visit historic sites like Fort King George, a colonial-era fort that offers insights into Georgia’s early history. The byway also passes through towns like Darien, where you can explore well-preserved historic districts and savor fresh seafood at local restaurants. Additionally, the byway provides access to numerous outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, and birdwatching, thanks to the proximity of the Altamaha River and surrounding wetlands. Overall, a drive along the Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway offers a multifaceted journey that celebrates Georgia’s natural beauty and diverse cultural tapestry.


While the classic route to Florida may remain a popular choice for snowbirds, exploring alternative routes offers a range of advantages. From avoiding traffic bottlenecks and discovering hidden gems to enjoying unique attractions and bypassing inclement weather, these alternative journeys can transform the winter migration into a memorable adventure. So, whether you’re a seasoned snowbird or a first-time traveler, consider charting a different course to Florida this winter on one of America’s Byways, and you may find that the journey is just as rewarding as the destination.

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